Washington — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he certified to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China, which could lead the city to lose its special trading status with the U.S.
U.S. law requires the State Department to assess Hong Kong's autonomy from China annually, and Pompeo said in a statement that "after careful study of developments," he certified to Congress "that Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997."
"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," he said.
The designation by Pompeo comes as pro-democracy protests warned last week the new law would be "a death knell" for Hong Kong's autonomy. The city enjoys freedom of the press, speech and assembly, and an independent judiciary.in Hong Kong in response to Beijing's recently proposed national security law, which would prohibit treason, secession, sedition and subversion in Hong Kong. Pompeo
China's legislature is expected to approve the new law Thursday, and the restrictions could go into effect as soon as August.
"Hong Kong and its dynamic, enterprising and free people have flourished for decades as a bastion of liberty, and this decision gives me no pleasure. But sound policy making requires a recognition of reality" Pompeo said. "While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself."
Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell told reporters in a briefing Wednesday that the U.S. would "do our best to make sure the people of Hong Kong are not adversely affected," while at the same time making sure Beijing understands American concerns.
"This decision was made by the government of Beijing and not the U.S.," Stillwell added.
The Trump administration has warned China against cracking down on Hong Kong. National security adviser Robert O'Brien told "Face the Nation" on Sunday that if Beijing did approve the national security law, there would be "significant consequences" and predicted it would be difficult for Hong Kong to remain an Asian financial center if it were implemented.
"That would be a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, but it would also be very bad for China," he said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters during Tuesday's press briefing that President Trump is "displeased with China's efforts."
Christina Ruffini contributed to this report.